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"The Alamo - a Mexican Pyrrhic victory?" Topic

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23 Sep 2010 3:29 p.m. PST
by Editor in Chief Bill

  • Changed title from "The alamo a mexican Pyrrhic victory victroy?" to "The Alamo - a Mexican Pyrrhic victory?"

1,635 hits since 23 Sep 2010
©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

Gunfreak Supporting Member of TMP23 Sep 2010 10:15 a.m. PST

Now I'm in total alamo mod after ordering my 10mm alamo stuff, and I was reading, now the mexicans used 1400 for the assault, and lost mabye as many as 600, thats almost 50% casualty rate, which is what you expect when assualing a fort with 18 cannon.

but 600 soldiers is also quite alot for a 6000 stong army, 10% infact, Now 10% of 120 000 is alot easier to absorb, then 10% of 6000 did the assault on the alamo help the destruction of the mexican army later?
Mabye not as much ad Santan deviding his forces, but he would have had 600 more menn to devide if he had simply bombared the fort to peices.

RockyRusso Inactive Member23 Sep 2010 10:20 a.m. PST


There are a lot of things about Alamo that seem contradictory!

1)when the alamo was taken the first time by the texians, the garrison was twice the size that the Texians later had to defend it. But the first attack was a "walk over" and the texians expected to stand with less?

2)most of the hindsight solutions about what Santa ana should have, could have done usually involve being unfamiliar with either the ground or the situation.

3)the larger war is way more interesting to game than the actual second taking of the alamo.


Gunfreak Supporting Member of TMP23 Sep 2010 10:26 a.m. PST

Yes, ofcourse if you do Alamo, you might as well do the whole war, but the alamo makes a great spectical.

Also the option of pounding the fort with heavy canon isn't higdsight, acrouding to sources it was put forward to santana by his generals, so he had that option before he assaulted.

Good to see we can keep the fez to the fez.

Frederick Supporting Member of TMP23 Sep 2010 10:35 a.m. PST

Well, I don't think the losses suffered at the Alamo had much to do with the ultimate outcome, which was settled by sloppy leadership on Santa Anna's part – had he not diverted two of his three columns away from San Jacinto, had he not worked his men until they were exhausted, and had he posted a strong guard and skirmish line during their siesta, the outcome of the actual decisive battle – San Jacinto – might have been very different – the Texians advanced over open ground in daylight, and a couple of hundred alert Mexican infantry would, in my humble view, have changed things completely – in which case, the Alamo would be viewed as a costly but necessary step to the suppression of rebellion in the loyal Mexican state of Coahuila y Tejas

vtsaogames23 Sep 2010 11:07 a.m. PST

Yeah, losses at the Alamo were less important than the Mexican army being caught asleep in mid-day.

doc mcb23 Sep 2010 11:40 a.m. PST

The loss of strength gradient applies; the Mexicans were a long way from home at San Jacinto.

But being bloodied at the Alamo had to have hurt -- and the "remember the Alamo" boost to the Texians surely helped.

PS, I've gamed the final assault dozens of times, and it always makes an exciting multi-player game.

combatpainter Fezian Inactive Member23 Sep 2010 11:55 a.m. PST

A victory that is offset by staggering losses

Had to look it up :) grin

flicking wargamer Inactive Member23 Sep 2010 12:42 p.m. PST

Was at the Alamo this summer and heard some things about the assault that I had not heard before, and I grew up in Texas and had probably one of the best Texas History teachers ever teach me about the Alamo.

First off the Texicans did take the Alamo first, but there was really hand to hand fighting in the city first, during which General Cos decided he could not hold the Alamo and withdrew. There is some debate about whether he was running out of powder and that is really why he left.

Santa Ana did not want to have the expense of using the cannons to reduce the Alamo, though it turns out the north wall pretty much fell under a light bombardment. There is also debate now about how many casualties the Mexican army really took in the assault and that their losses may not have been as high as first reported. There is debate over whether there really were more than one assault. The Mexicans considered this a minor battle and there are not many records of it from their side. The Texans were building up heros, and you can't have heros if they were all rolled over in the first go.

The Mexicans also turned the defender's guns on the rooms along the east wall and pretty much wiped them out that way. I had learned they held out for a long time in those rooms and were shooting the Mexicans as they ran by into the fort. Aparently not.

From what I remember there is no giant massed graveyard for the Mexican army there, and the defenders were burned first, then dumped in the river when that was not working. The Mexicans did not want to have a bunch of martyrs' graves as a rallying point for the rest of the rebels, which was why the Texican bodies were disposed of.

Also often missed, but is shown in the model across the street (that Phil Collins the singer owns) is the fact that the town really came up close to the walls and there were buildings pretty close to the walls, so the army could advance within a few yards of the defenders under strong cover, not over open ground as is often depicted in the movies. The river is not that far from where the walls were, and the town was on both sides of the river, right up to the mission.

Rich Trevino Inactive Member23 Sep 2010 12:43 p.m. PST

Number of Mexicans that made the charge was 1,695. Losses are usually pegged at 400-600, which would equate to a "typical" heavy losses rate of 33 percent. Numbers are from "Blood of Noble Men" by Alan Huffines, a book I would definitely call the "Alamo Companion."

When we read of units/armies taking one-third losses in the ACW or Napoleonic wars we are rightly stunned. Such has not always been the case in Alamo studies. I suppose Mexican losses have often been exaggerated for "civic lesson" purposes.

If anything, I think the worst aspect of making the charge was to blunt the tip of the spear of the whole army. Five of the seven much reduced Mexican infantry units that were chosen by Santa Anna to finish the Texans at San Jacinto had also taken part in the Alamo assault.

flicking wargamer Inactive Member23 Sep 2010 12:47 p.m. PST

There is also some debate as to whether the defenders were aware of the Goliad massacre. There evidently was a pretty good in and out of the mission right up to the assault, with people coming in and going out right up to the actual attack. The actual shooting was all in one day. The Mexican army sat outside for a long time expecting them to surrender or just run off. At least 20 guys did run off during the seige, plus runners to Sam Houston and to Goliad.

The Mexicans lost at San Jancinto because they got complacent, and they wore themselves out trying to convince the Texicans that there were more of them there than there actually were by having their units march into the camp over and over (another brilliant idea by Cos). They would then rest up during the day, and march out at night to do it again while they stalled for time. Fell into the pattern and suffered for it.

foot soldier Sponsoring Member of TMP23 Sep 2010 12:58 p.m. PST

Get a hold of a copy of "Exodus from the Alamo" by Philip Thomas Tucker, and you will change your opinion of the battle at the Alamo. Amazing how many defenders died trying to run away. The Battle of the Alamo was a walkover!! It couldn't have been more poorly defended than it was.
I would recheck your casualty figures!It is believed that the Mexicans suffered around 70 dead and 250 wounded. Many of the wounded were believed shot through fratricide.

Terrement Inactive Member23 Sep 2010 1:06 p.m. PST


Rich Trevino Inactive Member23 Sep 2010 1:06 p.m. PST

Do NOT waste your money on Exodus from the Alamo. That aspect of the battle has been known now for some time. First I heard of it was in 1999 in the Huffines book mentioned above. A popular recent work of historical fiction, "The Gates of the Alamo," has a vivid scene of routed Texans trying to live to fight another day.

The Goliad Massacre was on March 27. The Alamo was taken on March 6.

doc mcb23 Sep 2010 1:18 p.m. PST

Rich is correct. Huffines speculated that the garrison was more like 250 than 185, and that 60 or so escaped when resistance collapsed, perhaps covered by the chapel battery, but were ridden down by lancers and bodies burned where they fell. There's even an illustration in the book.

EXODUS is needlessly hyped as "new!"

quidveritas Inactive Member23 Sep 2010 3:09 p.m. PST

The Alamo slowed Santa Anna and bought time for Houston. The effect on the rebels' fighting spirit might have been significant -- "Remember the Alamo".

Otherwise it wasn't hugely significant in military terms one way or the other.

But if you ever want to start a fight in Texas . . .


combatpainter Fezian Inactive Member23 Sep 2010 3:33 p.m. PST

I fought at the Alamo just ask my small son.

kyoteblue Inactive Member23 Sep 2010 4:25 p.m. PST


doc mcb23 Sep 2010 5:53 p.m. PST

So was Thermopylae militarily significant?

bloodeagle Inactive Member23 Sep 2010 6:17 p.m. PST

doc mcb: Not to the Mexicans.

darthfozzywig Supporting Member of TMP23 Sep 2010 6:47 p.m. PST

the documentary starring John Wayne & Richard Widmark. That's EXACTLY what happened…

At least as historical as 90% of what's shown on the Bigfoot…er…History Channel these days.

doc mcb23 Sep 2010 7:28 p.m. PST

bloodeagle: smartass.

RockyRusso Inactive Member24 Sep 2010 11:21 a.m. PST


I often think that the texian war is more related to the inevitable march of history. S.A. was at the end of a long supply line and while he was winning during the "runaway scrape" fact none of the locals were helping him reclaim tejas. I am not sure that this war was decided by the battles. If San Jacinto had had an alert mexican army, it would have just happened later. I don't see a way to hold texas for the simple reason that there was no objective that could convince the locals that they wanted to be good loyal mexicans!

You are right Flicking that the original commander felt the place was unholdable and withdrew, but that is the point I am making. 250 garrison mexicans, no one ever accused the mexican troops as soft or cowardly then or now, but still Travis et al thought they could hold the place against more, regular, better equipped troops with fewer men.

Remember part of the surprise was that SA was there at all in March. The logistics SUCK for Santa Ana. To me, just getting there is an amazing feat that reflects the quality of the individual mexican soldier.

But the goliad massacre notwithstanding, SA, I think, felt that being a regular army and being scary would solve the problem. But again, in the americas, history seems to say that these movements weren't a matter of european style wars with significant battles.


sector51 Inactive Member25 Sep 2010 12:04 a.m. PST

Now 10% of 120 000 is alot easier to absorb, then 10% of 6000

10% is one tenth and remains one tenth of whatever the number you choose to relate it to. So 10% of 120,000 is double the number; 10% of 6,000.

600 men lost to the Mexican army probably not a lot in the overall scheme of things. The Mexican army still outnumbered the Texan rebels by 6:1 but were surprised and routed at the battle of San Jacinto, so the fighting at the Alamo would not have made a difference to that.

Main problem for the Mexicans was a series of weak governments and that seems the reason for the Mexican defeats and the eventual loss of California as well. Then they were invaded and occupied by the French. Tough on the Mexicans!

Gunfreak Supporting Member of TMP25 Sep 2010 4:52 a.m. PST

Yes, 10% is 10%

But if you got 6000 and lose 10% you got 5400 left, you loose 10% more you only got 4860 left.

Very fast you get a combat ineffective force.

But 10% out of 120 000 means you still got 108 000, another 10% And you still got over 90 000 soldiers, it takes alot more to become combat ineffective.

Captain Gideon25 Sep 2010 9:21 a.m. PST

And from what I read somewhere it seems that the number of Mexican dead were'nt all killed by the Texans,it appears that many of the Mexican dead were killed by their own men.

Captain Gideon

Bunkermeister Supporting Member of TMP25 Sep 2010 5:15 p.m. PST

The John Wayne "Alamo" is an excellent movie and a very good one as a painting guide for the buildings, and making terrain. It also captures the Texans spirit of resistance to the tyranny of Santa Ana. The details of the battle are not as important to history as the effect the battle had on the morale of those Texans at San Jacinto and all Texans since that time. The movie is one of those that inspired me to buy the Imex Alamo figures in vast numbers and the 1/72nd scale Alamo model too. I posted photos on my blog a long time ago, but a search of the blog will bring them up.

It is a great wargame battle. Both sides are brave troops fighting a battle with only one likely outcome. The Mexicans are a colorful army and the Texans cry out for individual troops. While the Imex sets form the basis for my armies I have added troops from many other companies to provide engineers, artillery and more poses for the Texans.

Another nice thing about this battle is the Alamo itself is rather small and you can actually deploy all the troops on both sides in 1/72nd scale. In plastic they are not that expensive. Fidelis Models, an advertiser on TMP, sells the Imex Alamo sets.

Mike "Bunkermeister" Creek

sector51 Inactive Member26 Sep 2010 2:01 a.m. PST

But 10% out of 120 000 means you still got 108 000, another 10% And you still got over 90 000 soldiers, it takes alot more to become combat ineffective.

Surprisingly enough percentage losses do matter. Perhaps if you see enough of your fellow soldiers killed you start worrying about the chances of your own survival and the prospects of success?

Historically several large armies have been beaten by smaller armies, so having a number of men does not make victory certain.

Texan forces were still vastly outnumbered after the Alamo but still won. Perhaps the true victory was the time they bought to organise the Texan forces.

Chris Wimbrow26 Sep 2010 6:29 a.m. PST

Damned waste of Davy Crockett, but we still love ya', Texas.

Except for those extremely rare occasions we get to play college football.

docdennis1968 Inactive Member26 Sep 2010 12:11 p.m. PST

So OK what is the general consensus of Mexican losses at The Alamo? Everything from " hardly any" to " ghastly" is commented upon in different books, Movies, TV history, and such! Are there any reliable records and sources on this (I am ignorant of them) that can cut thru the mythology and the personal and national adgendas that some folks have about this?? Maybe there is not and we just have to let it be a mystery of some importance!

Rich Trevino Inactive Member26 Sep 2010 2:52 p.m. PST

Consensus is 400-600 out of about 1,700-- HEAVY casualties.

Some excellent sources were used for the wiki article. I think it's a great introduction to the battle:

The Alamo Journal is still available, $5 USD for the usual collection of great articles in each issue:


Major General Stanley26 Sep 2010 4:58 p.m. PST

Travis et al didn't think that they could hold the Alamo with the number of troops available. They expected that Texans would rally to them and that the decisive battle would be fought at San Antonio

Tucker's book is a racist hatchet job completely unsupported by any evidence.

doc mcb26 Sep 2010 7:33 p.m. PST

I've read most of the Alamo books. Estimates of Mex losses are all over the place, but I agree with Rich that 400-600 is a pretty good guess.

When I game the final assault, I keep track of Mex losses, and 500+ gives the Texians a "victory" (in the game, not in the battle) while 600+ is considered a "major victory."

As to movies, when I teach the Alamo, if there's time, I use a little bit of the old Disney Fess Parker CROCKETT film, followed by the final assault from Wayne's, followed by as much of the new Thornton-as-Crockett as I can manage.

LINE IN THE SAND is an excellent discussion of the memory of the Alamo; the authors also did a biography of Wayne.

CooperSteveOnTheLaptop Inactive Member27 Sep 2010 7:35 a.m. PST

"Perhaps the true victory was the time they bought to organise the Texan forces."

No it didn't. It took some time for the news to get out, while the Texians twiddled their thumbs, then the Texan army was ordered into headlong retreat.

RockyRusso Inactive Member28 Sep 2010 12:02 p.m. PST


yet still the texians won the war and their independence!


Beaumap06 Oct 2010 1:59 p.m. PST

They didnt become independent – they became part of another nation.

RockyRusso Inactive Member07 Oct 2010 11:23 a.m. PST


1836 to 1848. And texans today STILL do things their own way. AND they did NOT lose the war.


docdennis1968 Inactive Member08 Oct 2010 1:10 p.m. PST

Texas WAS an "independent" country for about 10 years, but they spent most of that time trying to get into the USA, then a few years later they left for the CSA, then back to the USA, and now some want out again! Likely they will stay, but one wonders who would be better off if Texas left the USA again, them or the rest of us?? Don't mean to start anything, just sayin!!

doc mcb08 Oct 2010 7:35 p.m. PST

One significant factor is that when Texas joined the USA, by treaty, the STATE retained ownership of all the public lands. Unlike most of the west, where even today Washington DC owns 80-90% of land. A lot of Texas' economic growth stems from that.

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